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Royal repast

Grand Indian Master Chef Imtiaz Qureshi brings a regal spread for the Dum Pukht fest

DRESSED IN a regal flavour — majestic chandeliers, portraits and black and white frames of the Paigah family, royal blue traditional dastar runners holding silverware, Dum Pukht (from dum cuisine served in a pure pukht environment) at ITC Hotel Grand Kakatiya Sheraton, seems to offer the grand Indian master chef who started the restaurant five years ago, a warm welcome. He has been elementary in setting up Dum Pukht in ITC Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi before he brought the restaurant to the twin cities, as well as the famous Bukhara in the Capital. A smile flickers across his face as he walks through the ambience that is filled with soft notes of live ghazal rendition that turns to a deft authority as he enters the kitchen to ensure food is dum perfect.

"Yeh zaroor hai ki cuisine me difference a gaya in paanch salon me yahan (There has been a difference in the cuisine here since five years ago when I started the place). I wanted to revive the Dum Pukht kitchen and bring some new offerings during my stay here," says Grand Indian Master Chef Imtiaz Qureshi who is here for the Dum Pukht food festival (dinner, till May 4).

So, Sangam galauti, a fusion of chicken and mutton, fired on simmering coal, the very Lucknowi Noormahal biryani with mutton koftas and a vegetarian fare featuring Handi kebab — made with raw papaya traditionally used for softening of meat, with cheese and Gandum ke pasinde, wheat dumplings are on offer during the food fest. If the preparations are innovative, the nomenclature is as enticing, for instance a Lab-e-mashooq for kulfi. A mix of the best from the kitchens of nawabs of Hyderabad and Lucknow, the festival also brings Double ka meetha and its Lucknowi counterpart Shahi tukda and a fusion Apple jalebi flambé.

His cuisine is an outcome of intense research, familial influences and inspiration through the years. "Sikandar aur Porus, starring Sohrab Modi and Prithvi Raj, had this scene where soldiers make a sheek kebab with sharab, a flambé, that served as an inspiration for Sikandari raan that I introduced at Bukhara and is also served at Peshawari here. My uncles worked for nobles such as Wajid Ali Shah and Rai Saheb Jahangirabad and thus I got a first hand knowledge of the royal cuisine. My father was a butcher, which helped my understanding of meat from different parts like chaap and raan and their usage. Then I went abroad as part of my study for Dum Pukht. In the West, taking a cue from the basic sauces that are found in French cuisine, Tandoori chicken, Sheek kebab and Chicken tikka are served along with 3-4 gravies. Even in India we have restaurants following an English tradition. So we decided to present exotic cuisine from the houses of nawabs made for dawat-e-walima or any other festive occasion following the same mehman nawazi, replete with seating arrangements such as the chowki at Dum Pukht," he says. And the best complement he feels was the one from Mukarram Jah who observed, "nawabon ko zinda kar diya aapne (you have made the nawabi tradition come alive)."

From the Moghul Hotel in Agra to being the Grand Indian Master Chef with ITC for over 26 years, presently with ITC Hotel Grand Maratha Sheraton & Towers Mumbai, it has been a long journey for the chef who has made a mark for himself when it comes to gourmet world. Drop in at Dum Pukht ITC Hotel Grand Kakatiya (Tel: 23400132) just to know why.


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